Our very own math champ: kudos for all the extra effort!

Bruno, the son of Abel Fiszelew from Tecpetrol's Operation Systems Management, is the winner of the Ñandú Mathematical Olympiad 2022, the Argentine round of a highly demanding logic and reasoning international contest in the so-called ‘language of the universe’, which opens the door to a whole range of technically-oriented fields of study.

"For me, at school, math was just another subject, but when you compete in the Mathematical Olympiad, it’s completely different. They set you brain teasers that need you to reason—although they do give you a calculator to do it!" Surprised and gratified by his achievements, Bruno Fiszelew, who is just 12 years old, spoke to Tecpetrol Hoy about making it to National Champion in the Ñandú Mathematical Olympiad 2022 in the category for sixth-grade pupils in Argentina.

The son of Abel Fiszelew, the IT Business Solutions Manager, Bruno was always a keen student and eager to learn, but often got bored in class. Until this year, when his school, the Mariano Moreno de Pacheco Institute decided to join the Argentine round of the International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO), setting up a weekly cramming workshop and a series of tests to select the students who would go on to represent the school. In the 2022 contest, 15,000 students from all over the country took part, and 360 made it through to the final round held in La Falda, province of Córdoba. 

Bruno Fiszelew traveled to compete in the Ñandú Mathematical Olympiadhe came top in his category.

“At first I thought that 'it was way too complicated', because we weren't used to these sort of things, until I actually started training based on the exams from previous years,” explained Bruno. “We had three problems to solve per exam, one on equations, another on geometry and the last one on logic, where they give you a scenario and you have to calculate probabilities or propose a winning strategy.”

As he went on to solve math problem after math problem, Bruno worked his way through the intercollegiate, zonal, and regional heats, finally classifying for the national rounds. And because of his overall high score, he was invited to take part in the provincial heats, designed to help students prepare for the final, held in the coastal resort of Mar del Plata. "Although we’re actually competing against each other, we build strong friendships when we travel," said Bruno. The climate is clearly one of camaraderie and support rather than competition, with encouragement such as, "Come on Bruno, you’ve got a chance, you can do this!"

"The students all stay at the same hotel and hang out at the pool or play ping-pong, shuffleboard, or other games, it's like a school trip, really," commented Silvana Zaraftis, Bruno's mother, who accompanied him to each round. "Although Bruno had to deal with the frustration of not being able to solve one of the problems that came up in the provincial heats, he nevertheless pushed through and took third place." 

After two days of written examsBruno earned the championship title following his presentation on how he arrived at his results.

By the time they reached the national round, the students were subjected to two full days of solving mind-bending problems, stretching their brain-power to the full. On the third day, the three who’d performed the best were required to give a presentation before all the other participants as well as the members of the jury, to explain their thinking processes and how they reached their results. Bruno’s performance on stage earned him the coveted winning title. 

"As his father, after the Olympiad, I noticed a change in how Bruno thinks, and in the way he tackles problems. I saw how much of a challenge this was for him, how he coped, and crucially, how it opened up his mind," said his father Abel, who also accompanied him during his training. “We met other parents who had competed when they were kids and they told us how this practice and experience had helped them to learn to think in a very special way, putting them at a huge advantage and opening up the possibility of pursuing careers in the technical field.”

“Bruno was already reading and writing at the age of three, he was always motivated to learn but he needed something to push him out of his comfort zone, a special challenge requiring extra effort," said his mother. "These Olympiads were what he needed to teach him how to push through, how not to get discouraged when facing problems, because this contest is about rewarding merit," his father completed. 

In addition to a diploma and a high-end scientific calculator, thanks to his winning performance, Bruno was selected to compete in the International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO) for primary school pupils from Spanish-speaking countries. He trained at the Faculty of Exact Sciences of the University of Buenos Aires so he would be able to compete for both alone and as part of a team on the podium. In these World Cup times, this team can look forward to another prized opportunity to represent Argentina.

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